Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Write to marry day

Welcome to 'Write to Marry' day - a day where bloggers band together to speak out in favour of same-sex marriage and encourage voters to vote *NO* on California's Proposition 8.

I can't even begin to touch this post by Liss at Shakesville, so I'm not even going to try. I'm just going to tell you to go there and read it. It's the best reason ever for today.

I'm just going to be short and to the point - a rarity for me.

I was born straight. My first crush was Bob on Sesame Street, and in first grade I fancied Brendan Pelarski, soon to be overthrown by Nicky, who had the most gorgeous red hair and freckles. I was part of the mainstream, except for the fact that I didn't - and for the most part, still don't - fancy men from my ethnic/racial group. But even that has become normal over time, so I still qualify as mainstream.

Marriage, had it (or, Lady willing, when it does) come, would be legally easy for me. (Let's leave out the 'OHMIGOD, I'm caught' and all the emotional stuff that will come with it.)

But why shouldn't it be just as easy for my friend Andrew? Or my friend Van? Or any one who was born primed to love someone of the same sex just as I was born primed to love someone of the opposite sex?

You love where you love. That's all there is to it.

Marriage doesn't equal one man and one woman. Marriage is a union between hearts and souls, which are beyond gender.

THIS is marriage:

To quote Reiza, who linked to this photo, and so many others before her:

Marriage = love

California, vote NO on proposition 8. Keep the true meaning of marriage alive.

Intelligence and the presidential campaign

I promised a long entry on the 2008 election. Didn't happen. With a week to go, here are some thoughts on why I'm voting the way I am.

There has been a lot of debate about intelligence and experience, and that's what I'm going to touch on in this entry. The general wisdom goes: Sarah Palin isn't intelligent; Barack Obama isn't experienced.

Leaving aside issues of character or lack thereof, which would you rather have?

For me, lack of experience wins hands down. Better that in the White House than the profound lack of intelligence we've seen for the last eight years.

Conventional wisdom might dictate that you need experience.

My friends won't bat an eyelid when I tell you that conventional wisdom is wrong. Again.

First, I need to do is be clear about what I mean by 'intelligence'. I define intelligence not by knowledge base, but by what I think of as (my coinage, I'm sure there's a better term) 'meta-cognitive' ability - which I use to mean having well-developed cognitive structures to process information, and to actually THINK about how you're processing it.
In other words, what do you DO when information comes in? Do you think about how you're...thinking?

Barack Obama, whatever reservations people may have about him, appears extraordinarily capable of taking experience and information, assimilating it, manipulating it and making it his own. He WANTS TO KNOW and he LEARNS. I strongly suspect he's capable of changing a theory as new information comes in - he doesn't set a theory in the concrete of his view of how the world should look. This curiosity, ability to process information and mental flexibility is, in my book, the REAL hallmark of intelligence (what's the point of having loads of factoids if you're not creative with them - manipulating, synthesising, etc. ?).
It's the processing ability that makes it possible for someone to think on their feet, turn on a dime, listen to others and absorb what they have to say, pull it all together and come to a decision. I've seen less of Biden, but from what I've seen, he demonstrates a formidable knowledge base with similar ability to process/manipulate information.

On the other hand, loads of experience paired with inflexible thinking and a lack of curiosity isn't worth a bucket of warm piss (which was probably Garner's REAL quote on the vice-presidency. Come on, surely a bucket of warm 'spit' didn't make sense to anyone? Who can spit that much?).

In contrast to Obama and Biden, John McCain and Sarah Palin have demonstrated (through interviews and the debate) a real lack of curiosity and unwillingness/inability to absorb/process info and make it their own. Palin just parrots soundbites. Nowhere in her interviews or her debate did she show any ability to process and manipulate information and make it her own. She would make comments like, "I may not answer the question, Gwen," (uh, yeah, you f***ing will, if you want the 2nd highest office in the land) and do everything she could to return to her talking points. She didn't use the talking points to come to any conclusions, she wasn't able to use what she had been given to deal with the situation at hand - the questions that were being thrown at her. She simply pretended they didn't exist.

With McCain, incoming information seems to make no impact on any theories he holds, leading to poor decision-making, since theories are based on preferences, not on incoming evidence. His comment - with derisive air quotes - around 'the health of the mother' makes for a classic moment. Obama has just said, "No one is pro-abortion", to which McCain responds:

This is just another example of the eloquence of Senator Obama. His 'health of the mother' (derisive air quotes) - that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement to mean almost anything.

Eh? How about asking Obama what he means? Using facts to back his position? Instead, he uses all the contempt in his possession to simply dismiss what Obama had to say - and women in general, as well as the one exception many of his anti-abortion colleagues *allow*. Add to this his stepping up attacks against Obama when evidence shows that more and more people are backing away from his vitriol, and it's pretty clear that listening and evidence have very little place in the McCain campaign.

If you don't believe me, speak to the press corps whose darling he was not a year ago and who have been turning away from him in droves. Look at every fact check website and you'll see that McCain's lies both outnumber and outweigh Obama's.

Both Republicans baldly lie in the face of evidence: e.g., Palin's bridge to nowhere, McCain's claim that Obama was opposed to offshore drilling, even though Obama had stated in his acceptance speech he was open to it.

Essentially, the Republican ticket mirrors its right-wing base - uncurious, unquestioning, insistent that facts fit into their framework, not that their framework fit the facts.

That isn't so bad if you're me and making a decision between ice cream or Death by Chocolate for pudding, but if you're vice president, or Flying Spaghetti Monster forbid, president, it can be the difference between life and death.

In my eyes, THAT is why McCain and Palin are completely unqualified. They simply cannot, or will not, base their decisions on reality when it interferes with their preferences.

Obama may be less experienced, but his ability to absorb and process experience when it comes means that any disadvantage will be quickly overcome by his ability to *create and manipulate* a sizeable knowledge base.

Or, more basically:

Lack of experience is easily sorted. Lack of thinking is not.

Monday, 27 October 2008

The emotionally unavailable male - lolcat demonstration

Note, how in the first picture, he is da cat making teh move - it's HIS paw around her...

He chases and chases, and finally, she gives in. Things are marvelous: he's attentive, the sex is out of this world, life goes by in the haze of rose-coloured glasses.

Then she has a bad day, needs a little affection and comes home to this:

Unfortunately, with the emotionally unavailable man, that's all it will ever be. The instant you pull away, he'll come after you with flowers, phone calls, candlelit dinners and great sex. As soon as you try to settle down into a consistently emotionally close relationship, you'd get more warmth hugging Michelangelo's David.

I don't like to quote Nancy Reagan often - ok, ever - but this time, it's warranted. In this situation, sisters mine, take her advice and...

Just say 'no'.

Find a real man - one who isn't afraid of the day-to-day closeness and who can go the emotional distance.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Fantastic link...

on the body language of John and Cindy McCain's marriage.

I expected a fairly shallow article - but this went deep and gave some fantastic general relationship advice.

And I want the bumper sticker they mention, the one that reads:

"What are you pretending not to know?"


(and here's the Obama relationship article)

Edited to add this fabulous one that pulls it all together.

Rock of ages

I just had to post this. There have been so many times I've wanted to stand up in the middle of the Oratory during Latin mass and just shout the first line to everyone there living (if you can call it that) their Stepford lives:

All right, I got something to say: Yeah, it's better to burn out -


And yes, I've wanted to rock the damn place down, down to the ground...and occasionally (figuratively) burn it, but only to start again.

Well, the church DOES refer to itself as the Rock of Ages, so it's a perfectly appropriate song to break into in the middle of mass.

What do I want? I want rock 'n' roll.

Yes, I do.

After all, someone has to get into that church and give the Holy Spirit a hand. How? Gonna start a fire...

Thursday, 23 October 2008



I'm watching "Silent Witness", and one of the story lines takes place in a Chasidic community. Overall, it's not too bad - we've seen a reasonable Shabbat dinner, married women wearing sheitels, the problems of not fitting in and the claustrophobia, a proper Siddur, a scene from a shiva.

They don't seem to get that the Chasidim aren't the same as 'black hatters', but fine.

'Noach' and 'Esther' pronounced correctly.

But ARRRRRGGGHHHHHH! When Nikki and Harry, the goyim, pronounce Yitzchak correctly with a 'ch' as in the German 'ach' and the supposed Chasidic parents pronounce Yitzchak with a 'ch' as in 'Charlie', it's NAILS ON A DAMNED CHALKBOARD.

And it's even worse when Ari is pronounced 'Airi' by supposed Chasidim, rather than 'Ari' with an 'A' as in 'are'. GAAAAAAAAH. HATE.

If the actors are really Jewish, unforgivable. If they're not Jewish, understandable, but still unforgivable.

It's your job to get it right.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Sometimes I wish I could cry in public

I can cry in the dark at movies. I can cry in an empty church - the Oxford Oratory's Lady Chapel has seen its fair share of my tears, as has the Oxford night when I've been walking home.

Today, though, I nearly cried in Nando's in the middle of dinner.

My Namibian/Saffa friend and I met up for a proper catchup for the first time in AGES. I met her by our couch when she emerged from my ex-housemate's room after a long weekend. The moment our eyes met, we knew we'd be friends for life. I'm in touch with her far more than I am with him.

We talked about all that had happened since our last meeting - we laughed, gasped in disbelief, vented. We had moved on to the stuff that separates acquaintances from friends when she said something that made me fight for composure:

"You know, Saturday night, [ex-housemate] had left and I was all alone and I couldn't sleep. I was really missing him, feeling completely alone and couldn't stop crying."

"You should have rung me!"

"No, wait. I picked up my phone and looked at it, thinking, 'Who can I call? Who cares about me? Who can I talk to?' Then I suddenly thought, 'I can call Irim.' Yours was the first name that came into my head. And my heart felt so happy knowing I could call you that I didn't have to, and I just went straight to sleep."

I was so completely choked up, trying not to cry in public, I'm not sure I gave a coherent answer. I don't think I told her that I had actually been *awake* at 3am Saturday night, restless and unsettled.

Later in the conversation, she said, very naturally, "You're my sister."

As you are mine, heartsis.

A whispered prayer to All That Is from this panentheist:

Thank you for all my blessings - for those that are obvious and those that seem like obstacles, for love, friendship, and everything that comes my way. For making me incarnate so I can love Your creation through gazing on it, holding it tenderly, listening to it closely, tasting it, inhaling deeply.

But today, thank you for reassuring me that despite my crap mass attendance and poor attention to all things religiously orthodox, I must be living at least a sliver of a life that You would approve of. If just one person feels that they can ring me from a dark place at the dark time of 3am, I must be doing something right.

Not much. But something.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Dante's prayer

I was reading Ari's LJ, where she'd done a meme involving an ipod shuffle, 10 songs and writing a coherent paragraph with one sentence from each of the lyrics in order. I was alternately amused and impressed by her paragraphs, then one song and artist caught my eye.

I have loved Loreena McKennitt for years, and somehow, perhaps because of her song "All Souls' Night", I always think of her as the leaves turn colour, the nights draw in and my spiritual life shifts up a gear or several - though not always in the most orthodox fashion.

The song's title, "Dante's Prayer", arrested my attention - most obviously because of my Catholicism and the fact that I've always wanted to read the Divine Comedy (and need to stop wanting and start DOING). Less obviously, I wondered, "What does she think Dante would pray?"

So I went to look at the lyrics and found that she had somehow captured my life in the last fortnight - the intense melancholy of early October, which lingers; the sense of groundlessness, of a falling into the unknown; of moving into the welcome darkness of a long, moonlit night; the sense of reaching towards a world I know, a place that is home, that is somehow always just out of reach. And, as ever, my yearning for the mountains and the sea - I've often joked that I need to live where I can turn one way to face the mountains and the other to face an endless sea.

And, of course, love. First, last and always, love:

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and the fire


Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart:
Oh, give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares


Please remember me
Please remember me...

And so, as bonfires dot the rolling hillside this season of cocooning, cloaks and cocoa in the lengthening darkness, I wish you much yearning, introspection, mystery and growth. It is truly my favourite time of year. I only wish All Souls' mass wasn't trumped by a Sunday this year; I could do with black vestments, unbleached candles and a requiem mass as ritual.

And as I leave you, I offer you another question via Loreena McKennitt in this time of spiritual darkness and rebirth:

Would you like my mask?
would you like my mirror?
cries the man in the shadowing hood:
You can look at yourself,
you can look at each other,
or you can look at the face, the face of your god.

May you make the choice that brings you love and finally brings you home.

Blessed be, and Amen.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Bone marrow drive in London

I was asked by a fellow blogger, William Wolfrum, whom I also consider a virtual friend, if I would cross-post for him here, since I may be lucky enough to have more UK readers than he does, and so, without further ado:

Like virtually all other nations on the planet, England needs bone marrow donors to come forward and offer the gift of life to the many in need of a bone marrow transplant to survive. Tomorrow in London there’s a registration drive happening. Here’s the vitals:


Saturday, October 18, 2008
11:00am - 4:30pm
Barclays Bank
126 Station Road HA8 7RY
London, United Kingdom

The event is being held by the African Caribbean Leukemia Trust. From my friend Tamu Townsend:

“It doesn’t take much time to register and requires a teaspoon of blood. That’s it. If you match, you will be guided every step of the way. The ACLT’s current campaign is Heroes Wanted. You don’t have to run into a burning building or have superpowers to be a hero. Just a willingness to help.”

If you’re someone who likes to help people, joining the bone marrow donor registry is one of the easiest ways you can not just help someone, but actually save a life. Finding a bone marrow match is a number’s game. And every registry desperately needs more numbers.

If you’re in the U.S. and want to join the registry, head over to the National Marrow Donor Program at or send me an e-mail at wkwolfrum(at)gmail(dot)com.



I really must go and give blood again so I can complete the process, especially as a South Asian with a B+ blood type - both of which are pretty rare on the registry, from what I understand.

Please everyone, wherever you are: Oxford, London, Newcastle, Rome, Paris, New York or Sydney - please join the bone marrow registry.

It costs so little, but the dividends are huge.

And take it from me, even in today's troubled climate, that's a risk worth taking.

Touch typing and orgasms

From my morning conversation with my jobshare partner, whose 6 month old cutie I babysat for last night:

9:35am Irim: I presume that is 'Robin is loving the Kaiser Chiefs'?

9:36am Robin: damn touch typing let me down again only works if you have your fingers on the right button - like so much in life :0

Irim: You know, there's a line about female orgasms in here somewhere...

Surely everyone saw THAT coming, especially my mah boyz? We all know me: get out of the gutter, you're standing on my snorkel.

I promise, no comments about teaching men to type or have their fingers on the right button and pressing appropriately. Or drawing men maps/diagrams.


*Sits in chair, jiggling feet, trying to catalogue books on the history of South Africa. Attempts not to burst out and just say it...*

Remind me why I'm a Catholic girl AND a librarian?

Oh right, to make sure sex gets into the conversation whenever possible, like the trickster I am...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

This is why... don't consider them a burden. You don't abort them just because of their sex. You don't bury them alive as newborns. You don't treat them as property. You don't kill them because they won't marry who you want. You don't belittle them. You don't prevent them from living their lives, whatever they may be.

This is why you treat them as human beings with agency. This is why those 18,000,000 cracks in the glass ceiling need to become a wide open space for anyone and everyone to go through. This is why I snark, argue, fight, won't put up with any crap from anyone, and vote.

Maybe it's why I force myself into knots in male-dominated institutions, opening my mouth and pushing against the status quo and the women who roll over and support it.

It's CERTAINLY why a number of Christmas presents will be donations to support girls in school, sex education, women in business, female literacy, all of it.

And yeah, that includes the 'only boys can be altar servers/priests/head of any religion and women are only there to clean up after us/be patronised/bear us children' crowd.

Please help change the course of history. Donate here.

It's time to restore the balance. (Video and inspiration to blog this via Shakesville)

Sunday, 12 October 2008


When I friended family on Facebook, I knew it was just a matter of time before the childhood friends I suffered many a Pakistani party with would make a friend request.

It happened last week. My heart sank.

Now, before anyone recoils in horror, let me explain: for the most part, we really couldn't stand each other. The bitchiness and competitiveness wasn't an undertone, believe you me. There wasn't *ONE* girl I sat with at those parties - with the exception of my cousins, Ambereen and Nageen - that I would have trusted with any snippet of my real life, because it would have been met with nothing but contempt and ridicule. I sat there for hours on end, hating the shallow conversation, the regurgitation of parental mores, the smugness...the unthinking acceptance of everything being shoved down their throats. In many cases, I could stand their parents even less.

But much as my friends today will find it hard to believe, I was a 'good girl', so I said nothing.

It's no wonder I don't - and most likely *won't* - ever have a close South Asian female friend, at least not one who hasn't made some kind of real break from the culture. Yaqoob is currently my only South Asian friend, and he's a Christian male.

So, what did I do when this request came through? I accepted.

Why? In part, because I think I should be over the childhood crap and trust that they've grown up to be thoughtful human beings. In part, because I'm curious. In part, as a way of facing the childhood I'd really rather not admit to having.

The result? Flipping through her pictures, I feel suffocated by her life: the same friends we had growing up, one job lasting 4 yrs, 91 South Asian friends - not a white or black face amongst them, indicative of a narrow circle, a narrow mind and a troubling racism. Every single picture is of a Pakistani party that is a clone for the life-draining ones I grew up with, with the shallow happy-happy comments of 'what a lovely couple!' beneath photos, even when the woman's body language and expression indicates she'd rather be having a root canal than be with the rank, limp Pakistani man by her side, who has the befuddled expression of someone who never expected to have sex, but is actually going to get some because his parents found a girl who'd take him.

And if I see the expression 'mash'allah' beneath another picture, I'm going to hurt someone. Or defriend her.

What do I remember about her life before we lost touch? She couldn't get into medical school here, so her parents sent her to med school in Pakistan, which didn't pan out too well when she got back - aside from my mother's rhapsody on how well she spoke Urdu and how she'd fallen in love with the culture. Then she accepted an arranged marriage, had kids, and had no life of her own, just got absorbed into some replay of her parents' life.

"Independent free thinker"? I think not.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, walking out of my parents' house was the best decision I ever made.

Yes, I know I'm being judgmental and that my reaction is much more about how I feel about my childhood and the restrictions of the culture I grew up in. I feel suffocated by MY childhood and what could have been, not her life.

Instead, I need to be thankful for the authenticity of my life, full of friends from all over the world, and for the love I'm surrounded by, as well as the fact that I have the freedom I've wanted for as long as I can remember. Would I love to be married and have children? Absolutely. But only when people look at a picture of us and don't feel the need to comment, "What a lovely couple," because well, *real* couples - with laughter, passion, closeness - aren't...'lovely' or 'nice'.

But I need to face what this Facebook friend brings, not run away from it. And it's not fair of me to hold her responsible for it, simply because she's the one who decided to re-enter my life.

After all, I chose to let her back in.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


I was on the phone with a friend last night when she said to me:

"Do you remember the loaded question you asked me?"

I laughed. "I ask a lot of loaded questions, so you'll have to remind me."

"About [name]."

"Ah, yes."

"Well, it turns out I was warned to be careful around him."

"I can't say I'm surprised. I never trusted him, no matter how nice everyone else said he was."

"I know you didn't."

"It wasn't anything I could articulate, I just didn't want him within 4 ft of me. I wondered if it was me, if it had to do with being sexually abused by my uncle."

"Well, that actually gave you an early warning system that most people don't have."

She's partially right there - I would add that having a father who was charming in public and oh-so-much-less-so in private made that radar foolproof.

But it doesn't mean that I'm always certain of my instincts; in fact, when people say, "But he/she/it is so lovely; you're wrong, you're just harsh/cynical/you don't know them," I will almost always find a reason to back off and brush it off as a first impression.

Problem is, that initial instinct is always right: maybe in a softer way than I had put it, or only as part of the whole. But it is right, even as a thread, not a pattern.

That only holds if the sense falls in the middle ground, which, of course, most of the time it does. If my emotion towards someone or sense of interpersonal dynamics is extreme, positive or negative, it is also always right in degree.

After I hung up with her last night, I followed the thread back. I had spoken truly, all I could have told her was that tension in my solar plexus, the sense of a shield about three feet away from me when this man was around. My voice would become more clipped, his eyes unsettled me, possibly because they were the golden green that reminded me of a cat's, a colour I've always found unsettling and unhuman.

Then I knew.

One of the things I've always done is pick up emotional resonances: give me a man who is under tight control and I will sense the anger/sadness/sexuality underneath the sealed lid. Someone who is pretending to be happy, and I will sense the depression. I don't see people with my eyes as much as I see them with my emotional senses, from the definable character lines to the indefinable aura.

What had completely freaked me out about this man was that I could sense *nothing*. He was an emotional vacuum. If you don't know, I can't even tell you how frighteningly creepy that is.

*Shudder* Here's hoping that I never have to run into him again. I have yet to hear what made everyone else cotton on, but from what little I got, I suspect it's more than a bit sinister.

But this does cut two ways: it means that when I *do* trust, that's right, too. I have had male friends who lift me off my feet when they hug me, wrap their arms round my shoulders and pull me close, ruffle my hair and so on - all of which many feminists consider demeaning/physically dominant gestures.

But from these men, all of whom I trust implicitly, I absolutely welcome them - and would miss the gestures if they weren't made.

That trust comes from the same place, so that radar is truly a gift.

But last night's conversation - and others like it - still leave me absolutely shaken, though I couldn't tell you why.

Monday, 6 October 2008

And from the clerical corner...

The cleric in question shall remain nameless...suffice it to say, he's a good friend.

We were discussing the pros and cons of the internet when...

Cleric: I'm sick of getting emails about penis enlargements.

Me: I know. Me too - and you know how sensitive I am about my penis size.

Cleric: (laughs) Things would have been very different if you had had a penis.

Me: Yes. For one, I'd be Pope by now.
Cleric, in a voice combining long-suffering and horror: Oh. my. God. (gesturing towards my cleavage) Well, it's a good thing He gave you those then.

It's time this bitch got some respect...and her own back:


Sunday, 5 October 2008

Saffadeacon's sermon

I'm not trying to hide who he is, so don't worry about the appellation.

He's a good friend - one who will tell me what's what and has a belief in the goodness of others that makes me both fear for and envy him.

Because of my lack of mass attendance, Saturday was the first time I'd heard him preach. The readings had been tied together by the vineyard motif: Isaiah's poetry described what the Lord had done for His vineyard; the psalm declaimed that the Lord's vineyard was the House of Israel; the Gospel was Jesus' story about the vineyard and the owner.

So the expectation would have been for Br Saffadeacon to hit on sin, sour grapes, the evils in the vineyard. Did he?

He did not.

Instead, he began with the story of a well-known miracle in South Africa and followed the ripples of good that had followed from that. From there, he went further, to remind us that we are God's instruments of love in the world and that there is a hidden (or not so hidden) kernel of good in everyone and every situation, and that we can each make a difference every day by who we choose to be and what we choose to do.

Thus, in one sermon, where he beautifully (and I suspect unknowingly) outlined the Jewish concept of tikkun olam (a Hebrew phrase that means "repairing the world"), he hit upon the true challenge of the Christian faith - or any faith.

It isn't, as most priests bang on about, to eliminate sin - after all, the elimination of sin does not guarantee virtue. Also, sin is born of fear and pain, both of which are eliminated by the love that Saffadeacon exhorted us to live. After all, "perfect love casts out fear". So the elimination of sin is a natural consequence of living a life of love, which also guarantees virtue.

So, learning to live love - day by day, person by person, situation by situation - will repair the world by releasing the sparks of holiness in each situation whilst eliminating sin. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Simple, right? Love is a great thing, we all feel good when we have it/act from it. It should be obvious and clearcut, and with a little training, easy. Very neat indeed.


My reading of Paolo Coelho's The Zahir offers me a caveat from one of the main characters, Mikhail:

"All men and all women are connected by an energy which many people call love, but which is, in fact, the raw material from which the universe was built. This energy can't be manipulated, it leads us gently forwards, it contains all we have to learn in this life. If we try to make it go in the direction we want, we end up desperate, frustrated, disillusioned, because that energy is free and wild.

Love isn't tame and it isn't ours to direct. It directs us. It doesn't always appear when you want, how you want, in the person you want, in a neat little package to be put away when you're done.

Maybe not so easy after all. At least not for those of us who like to be in control at least 90% of the time.

Again, from The Zahir:

In hospital, love had spoken to me: 'I am everything and I am nothing. I am the wind, and I cannot enter windows and doors that are shut.'

And I said to love: 'But I am open to you.'

And love said to me, 'The wind is made of air. There is air inside your house, but everything is shut up. The furniture will get covered in dust, the damp will ruin the paintings and stain the walls. You will continue to breathe, you will know a small part of me, but I am not a part, I am Everything, and you will never know that.'

I saw that the furniture was covered in dust, that the paintings were being corroded by damp, and I had no alternative but to open the windows and doors. When I did that, the wind swept everything away. I wanted to cling on to my memories, to protect what I had worked hard to achieve, but everything disappeared and I was as empty as the steppes.

And before the clerics who believe they've given everything up for Christ and read this start to preen: don't. It is amongst you that I have found people with the most furniture and the most airtight houses, most closed against love and God because of the fear, avoidance and clinging that reside in you still.

Emptying that house doesn't always mean what we think it does: someone who lives in the world may well have an emptier house than someone who claims asceticism, if he holds those possessions lightly and the ascetic clings to his choice as a medal of his goodness and mark of how much closer he is to God than those who live in the world.

Never forget: this world is God's. Eschewing it in the way many do is simply a slap in the face to the Creator, a child's temper tantrum because the world wasn't what one wanted it to be. And that anger born of pain leaves no space for love.

The space that allows love to transform us is all in the heart, and love works differently in all our lives. Allow it to form shapes and situations you never expected or dared hope for. Let go of who or what you thought you were meant to be: married by 27, an executive VP by 40, a priest, a surgeon. Open your windows and doors and let love blow freely through your house, trusting, even though it may mean that you know not what is beneath your feet.

Frightening and painful as it may be at times, you will LIVE, and be that instrument that Saffadeacon spoke of. An instrument of change in a shattered world.

It's not just the toughest challenge; it's the only challenge.

No, all that wasn't in the sermon. But I love sermons that challenge me, force me to articulate what I believe and let me take them out of the church box and make all sorts of connections. This was truly one of those...simple, to the point, but with lots of room to play.

Thank you, Saffadeacon, for your superb sermon which threw down the gauntlet. I, for one, accept. And fully expect you to remind me in your no-holds-barred way when I'm refusing it.

And on that note, I raise a glass of South African red to you. I'd say "Well done" in Afrikaans, but I can't find a decent translation ;-). English is a bit boring, so I'll borrow a phrase from my childhood:


You couldn't have done better.